Monday, December 9, 2013

A Google Doodle for Grace Hopper

I was quite pleased to see that Google decided to honor what would have been Grace Hopper's 107th birthday with a Google Doodle. Hopper was definitely one of the more interesting pioneers in that specialty that had not yet acquired the name "computer science." She also deserves credit for introducing the idea of a programming language that would allow individuals to put a digital computer to practical use without having to account for every last detail of what was happening at the bit level.

I was fortunate enough to hear her talk several times. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that I listened to her give the same talk several times; but each iteration was still an enjoyable one. Others may remember her for COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language). I remember the fact that, in her office at the Pentagon, she had the Jolly Roger flying from a little stand on her desk. I also remember her telling me that she had tried to teach my father programming … without success. Nevertheless, I suspect that what everyone who heard her speak will remember was how she managed to get her head around the concept of the nanosecond.

Every time I watch Linda Hunt go to town in playing the role of Henrietta Lange on NCIS: Los Angeles, I think of Hopper. There is far more depth to Hetty's experiences than there was to those of "Princess Grace." On the other hand Hunt's capacity for catching just the right tone of caustic wit would make her the perfect actress to portray Hopper in a biographical story that would be as interesting as any tale of Alan Turing, albeit for totally different reasons.

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